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J Virol. 1995 Apr;69(4):2508-14.

Functional domains of delta antigens and viral RNA required for RNA packaging of hepatitis delta virus.

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Institute of Biochemistry, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Republic of China.


The functions of delta antigens (HDAgs) in the morphogenesis of hepatitis delta virus (HDV) have been studied previously. The C terminus of large HDAg has been shown to complex with the small surface antigen (HBsAg) of helper hepatitis B virus, whereas the assembly of small HDAg requires interaction with the N terminus of large HDAg (M.-F. Chang, C.-J. Chen, and S. C. Chang, J. Virol. 68:646-653, 1994). To further examine the molecular mechanisms by which HDAgs are involved in the assembly of HDV RNA, we have cotransfected Huh-7 cells with plasmids representing a longer than unit-length HDV and the small HBsAg cDNAs. We found that HDAg mRNA could be generated from an endogenous promoter within the HDV cDNA that was translated into large HDAg. Large HDAg is capable of complexing with monomeric HDV genomic RNA to form ribonucleoprotein particles (RNPs) and is capable of forming enveloped HDV-like particles in the presence of small HBsAg without undergoing HDV replication. In addition, the middle region from amino acid residues 89 to 145 of large HDAg is required for assembly of the RNPs but is dispensable for assembly of the enveloped particles. RNA assembly is also demonstrated with small HDAg when it is cotransfected with a packaging-defective large HDAg mutant and small HBsAg. Leu-115 within the putative helix-loop-helix structure of the small HDAg is important for the replication of HDV but is not essential for RNA assembly, suggesting that conformational requirements of small HDAg for replication and assembly of viral RNA may be different. Further studies indicate that a 312-nucleotide linear HDV RNA from one end of the HDV and structure is sufficient to form RNP complexes competent for assembly of virus-like particles with large HDAg and small HBsAg.

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